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Nature. 2004 Jun 3;429(6991):531-4.

The structure of the high-energy spin excitations in a high-transition-temperature superconductor.

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H. H. Wills Physics Laboratory, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TL, UK.


In conventional superconductors, lattice vibrations (phonons) mediate the attraction between electrons that is responsible for superconductivity. The high transition temperatures (high-T(c)) of the copper oxide superconductors has led to collective spin excitations being proposed as the mediating excitations in these materials. The mediating excitations must be strongly coupled to the conduction electrons, have energy greater than the pairing energy, and be present at T(c). The most obvious feature in the magnetic excitations of high-T(c) superconductors such as YBa2Cu3O6+x is the so-called 'resonance'. Although the resonance may be strongly coupled to the superconductivity, it is unlikely to be the main cause, because it has not been found in the La2-x(Ba,Sr)(x)CuO4 family and is not universally present in Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+delta (ref. 9). Here we use inelastic neutron scattering to characterize possible mediating excitations at higher energies in YBa2Cu3O6.6. We observe a square-shaped continuum of excitations peaked at incommensurate positions. These excitations have energies greater than the superconducting pairing energy, are present at T(c), and have spectral weight far exceeding that of the 'resonance'. The discovery of similar excitations in La2-xBa(x)CuO4 (ref. 10) suggests that they are a general property of the copper oxides, and a candidate for mediating the electron pairing.


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